Hobart man gets 30 years in connection with toddler’s death
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent November 20, 2012 4:54PM
Levi Hiatt. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet
Updated: December 22, 2012 6:25AM
Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell sentenced a Hobart man to 30 years in prison for neglect of a dependent in the death of his ex-girlfriend’s 3-year-old son.
Levi Edward Hiatt, 28, who pleaded guilty to the charge during his jury trial in the 2010 death of Comer Watkins V, made no statement in court and sat with his head down as the family of the toddler affectionately called Baby Comer described their loss, their dissatisfaction with the justice system and the horrific nature of the crime.
The child’s mother, Stephanie Smith, said she had many unanswered questions, as did his maternal grandmother, Laura Graham, who said there was “very little justice for Comer.”
Comer’s paternal grandmother, Lucy Watkins, told the judge, “A baby should not die by the hands of a man or woman, and only serve a few years.” Watkins urged a change in the law to make the sentence for that type of crime an automatic life without parole.
Deputy prosecutor Angela Brown told Boswell she wanted to stand before her to argue for a murder sentence of 45 to 65 years “because the state believes that is what Levi Hiatt deserves.”
Hiatt’s guilty plea came after judge pro tem Thomas Webber, a Porter Superior Court senior judge, granted defense attorney Larry Rogers’ motion for directed verdict of acquittal on the murder charge in the case on Oct. 3. The move stunned veteran courtroom observers, who said such a motion is rarely granted.
Hiatt admitted his actions caused injuries to Comer Watkins V and that he failed to seek medical attention for the boy, who lapsed into unconsciousness for 19 hours before an ambulance was called. Hiatt admitted that failing to get treatment for the child contributed to his death. The 30-year sentence was agreed to by prosecutors, Rogers and Hiatt, who has spent 541 days in the Lake County Jail.
“Baby Comer was brutally murdered and left to die,” Brown said, noting the child was unconscious but clinging to life after being severely injured on April 11, 2010. The baby was airlifted to Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago and died April 13.
The energetic, lively toddler who knew all his colors and his ABCs and loved Bob Marley songs, suffered multiple head injuries — to the left side, back and top of his head — all of which could have caused the subdural hematomas that led to the child’s death. Baby Comer also had a large bruise to the back of his leg, which evidence at the trial indicated could have been caused by being stomped on, and a horrific groin injury. “The state believes the injury to the top of the head was to stop that baby’s crying,” Brown said.
Rogers noted his client had no prior criminal record. “I think Judge Webber did the right thing,” Rogers said.
Boswell said there are no winners in this case. “The defendant loses a significant portion of his freedom but Baby Comer lost his life,” she said.